This essay is part of a series that explores the threat posed by the rise of ISIS to Asia, particularly Southeast Asia, and efforts that the governments of the region have taken and could/should take to respond to it. Read Read more ...
The rise since mid-2014 of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) — a terrorist group otherwise known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Islamic State (IS), or Daesh (after its Arabic acronym) — seems to have eclipsed other manifestations of global Islamist violence. ISIS’s notoriety is attributable to, among other things, its spectacular brutality, territorial gains, and apocalyptic ideology. ISIS intentionally employs violence as a political weapon and showcases grisly online images to cow populations under its control and convince the large viewing public of ISIS’s invincibility. Emotional trauma is purposely inflicted as feelings of fear, anger, and hopelessness spread among the masses. Escaping the attention of many is the fact that ISIS taps into sentiments that have been fostered by extremist policies of many Muslim governments and leaders themselves as an outgrowth of decades of authoritarian rule following post-colonial upheavals in many Muslim societies.
For many in the Muslim world, the ending of the Cold War had ambivalent consequences. On the one hand, Muslims rejoiced at the defeat and dismantling of the Soviet Union, which for over a decade had tormented Muslims through its invasion of Afghanistan, not to mention its forcible imposition of atheistic Communism on Muslim regions under its control. The violent conduct of the war aside, victory at the battlefront was widely interpreted as a sign of God’s blessings on the multinational Muslim forces that congregated in Afghanistan to repel the enemy. The Afghan triumph injected a sense of confidence in the umma, unprecedented in modern times when Muslim dependence of military technology on the Great Powers is well-known. Jihad, understood in its simplest sense as physical fighting (i.e. qital), rather than its broader meaning of striving, which can be waged spiritually, intellectually, and economically, acquired broad legitimacy as a technique to avenge injustices perpetrated on Muslims worldwide by conspiring powers. In mosques, schools, and religious institutions throughout the Muslim world, the heroics of the Afghan mujahideen (holy warriors) were continuously narrated to the youth and regular worshippers, without expressing a shadow of doubt about the fighters’ veracity in defending oppressed Muslims and their lands. Having achieved its immediate goal of repulsing the Soviets in 1989, the Afghan jihad deteriorated into fierce factional infighting among local tribal groups.
The large contingent of foreign fighters that had gathered in Afghanistan, among whom stateless foot soldiers hailing from Arab countries known as the ‘Arab Afghans’ were especially prominent, formed Al-Qaeda (The Base) as a militant outfit to continue waging jihad against perceived enemies of Islam. While some returned to the Middle East, though not necessarily to their home countries, others ventured into other conflict zones where Muslims were heavily involved in wars against hostile forces or regimes, such as Bosnia Herzegovina, Chechnya, Kosovo, Algeria, Tunisia, and the Philippines. Al-Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden (1957-2011) himself was based in the Sudan rather than Saudi Arabia — his home country which had revoked his citizenship, from 1992 to 1996, when he returned to Afghanistan under the protection of Mullah Mohamed Omar’s Taliban regime. Funds and armed personnel found their way into Al-Qaeda’s diasporic regions under the cloak and guise of charities and relief workers. Underlying Al-Qaeda’s attractiveness to Muslim youth convinced of the need to stop worldwide victimization of Muslims was its Salafi-jihadi ideology. Ideological conditioning, based on literal interpretations of Islamic scriptures as interrogated through Salafi-defined lenses, became part of Al-Qaeda’s package of reinforcements for Muslims who were prepared to align themselves with its global jihadist cause. Central to this exclusivist and aggressive ideology, as communicated by Bin Laden in a series of public declarations between 1994 and 2004, was the identification of the United States and its allies as the ‘far enemy’ with utmost priority as targets for terrorist attacks. Underlying the violence sanctioned by Al-Qaeda’s jihadist ideology was its indiscriminate call to kill both civilian and military enemies anywhere in the world, thus catapulting armed jihad to the global stage. Salafi-jihadism became the driving doctrine behind the active recruitment of jihadist fighters into Al-Qaeda franchises all over the world and large-scale movements of transnational jihadist funds.
Al-Qaeda’s narrative of an impending war between ‘Islam and the rest’ was boosted by the U.S.’ own activities in the resource-rich Middle Eastern heartlands of Islam. Evoking imageries of the medieval Crusades which pitted Christianity against Islam, the U.S.’s swift dispatch of troops to liberate Kuwait in 1990, and later invasion Iraq in 2003 in search of elusive weapons of mass destruction, in contrast to its tepid response to Israeli brutalities against the Palestinians, convinced many Muslims worldwide that the United States did indeed harbor nefarious designs on Muslim lands and peoples. Advancements in the internet-driven information and communication technology (ICT) rapidly galvanized Muslim sensitivities at the suffering and struggles of their religious brethren, lending legitimacy to the extremist jihadist narratives of Al-Qaeda and its ilk. Bin Laden unhesitatingly condoned the hijacking of airborne flights which crashed into New York’s World Trade Center (WTC) and the Pentagon on 11 September 2001. Assisted by the willingness of Arab news channels such as the Qatar-based Al Jazeera to broadcast its propaganda, after 9-11 Al-Qaeda and Bin Laden emerged as the enduring faces of violent extremism and deadly conflict, committed in the name of Islam.
Al-Qaeda’s ability to sustain attacks on Western targets, culminating in 9-11, had significant impact in institutionalizing violence as an effective method to fight the global oppression of Muslims.
Al-Qaeda’s ability to sustain attacks on Western targets, culminating in 9-11, had significant impact in institutionalizing violence as an effective method to fight the global oppression of Muslims. Not a few Muslims, while regretting the high civilian casualties of 9-11, harbored the thought that the United States, as the de facto leader of the West, deserved what had befallen it. In this sense, for the militants, despite the organizational setbacks that Al-Qaeda experienced following the post-9-11 American invasion of Afghanistan, 9-11 inadvertently spread militant jihadism even wider by loosening the organizational bond between Al-Qaeda and its worldwide franchises. Henceforth, ideological unity served even stronger as the linchpin of a global jihadist current, run as a loose movement rather than organization as defined by rigid loyalty to Al-Qaeda’s leadership. Its branches were relatively free to develop methods that homegrown operatives felt were most suitable to local circumstances. It is within this context of a domesticated global jihad that the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) needs to be understood. Indeed, following the American invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Iraq gradually replaced Afghanistan as the venue for aspiring jihadists’ baptisms of fire, whose recruitment from all over the world was greatly facilitated by the advent of social media networks. It was global and local at the same time: global in orientation, yet local in operation. Humiliating news and images spread of suspected Muslim terrorists being manhandled in U.S.-run detention centers such as the Guantanamo Bay camp in Cuba and Iraq’s own Abu Ghraib prison served to corroborate the impression of a U.S.-led worldwide conspiracy against Islam, and which jihadists used to justify their own reciprocal violence.
By bringing into the limelight the purported linkage between religion, particularly Islam, with violence, 9-11 set the stage for unprecedented tension between the Muslim and Western worlds. Unfortunately, the body of opinion within sections of the Muslim world which appeared to rejoice in silence at the fate that befell the United States was capitalized on by hostile Western media and political circles to postulate the association between Islam and violence as a historical given that is bound to resurface. Many interested parties latched onto the idea that there was something about Islam, or at least Islamic fundamentalism as couched in the term ‘Islamism,’ that was inherently violent and posed a permanent threat to not just the U.S. but also the whole civilized world. Among official policy-making circles in Washington, the penetration of neo-conservative thought, whose intellectual origins can be traced back to seminal essays by senior American scholars Bernard Lewis (1916- ) and Samuel Huntington (1927-2008), viz. ‘The Roots of Muslim Rage’ and ‘The Clash of Civilizations?’ respectively, contributed significantly to a backlash against Islam. In the U.S.’s official discourse, Islam was consistently essentialized as Islamism, and portrayed as an intolerant dogma that instrumentalizes coercion and violence in its effort to gain global supremacy.
While Ibn Taimiyyah propagated his literalist doctrine only through oral and written communication, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab struck a strategic alliance with a tribal leader, Muhammad ibn Saud (1710-1765), towards accomplishing his aims of cleansing Islam from religious accretions in the form of shirk (idolatry) and bid’ah (blasphemous innovation). The coercive power of the state was institutionalized in the service of religion, interpreted through Wahhabi lenses and forced down the throats of Muslim populations it conquered through a series of ruthless expansionist jihad campaigns in areas then under Ottoman sovereignty. The Wahhabi rebellion resulted in the emergence of three Saudi states from 1744 until 1818, from 1824 until 1891, and since 1902, the last of which has survived to this day in the form of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, proclaimed in 1932 by Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud (1875-1953). The Saudi-Wahhabi religio-political alliance persists till today; while sons of Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud have continuously ruled Saudi Arabia since his death, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s descendants unceasingly exert disproportionate influence in the country’s religious hierarchy. On its part, belying its Iraqi beginnings, ISIS does not hide its long-term intentions in restoring the pristine ideals of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia as embodied in the first Saudi state (1744-1818), which it aims to reenact, lock, stock, and barrel. As supposedly the true guardian of Wahhabism, ISIS has called upon its Saudi Arabian supporters, whom it addresses as the people of tawhid and the people of al-wala’ wa al-bara’ (loyalty and disavowal). Al-Qaeda and ISIS emerged onto the Islamist scene as an outgrowth of Salafi-jihadism, a school of thought that believes in the use of violence to accomplish its objective of erecting an Islamic state practicing the ideals of Salafism, which calls for a return to the Prophet’s puritanical teachings as exemplified in his hadith (oral and practical traditions), sunna (trodden path), and the lives of his companions and al-salaf al-salih (pious predecessors) i.e. early generations of Muslims who survived Muhammad (peace be upon him) until three-hundred years of his death.
Emerging within the context of the Afghan jihad as represented par excellence in the struggle of Al-Qaeda’s Abdullah Azzam (1941-1989), Salafi-jihadism was essentially a merger between Qutbism and Wahhabism, referring to the respective strands of Islamism that developed around the revolutionary and revivalist thoughts of Egypt’s Ikhwan al-Muslimun (Muslim Brotherhood, or MB) ideologue Sayyid Qutb (1906-66) and the theologian Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792) of Nejd in present-day Saudi Arabia. Both stripes of thinking were notorious for their takfiri stances, liberally apostasizing fellow Muslims who failed to adhere to conditions of Islamicity laid out by the exclusivist understanding of tawhid (monotheism) inherited from the medieval scholar Ibn Taimiyyah (1263-1328), widely honoured by self-proclaimed Salafis as their intellectual primogenitor. Ibn Taimiyyah’s and Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s influences are observable in the Islamist discourse expounded by Sayyid Qutb and the Pakistani Abul A’la Maududi (1903-1979), from whom Qutb borrowed many ideas. In the Salafi-jihadist intellectual pedigree, both Maududi and Qutb occupy positions of unrivalled prominence.
ISIS’s claims to the Wahhabi mantle is boosted by the scholarly Salafi credentials of its self-styled caliph, Abu Bakr Baghdadi (1971- ), who took over as emir of ISIS’s predecessor, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) in May 2010. ISI itself had evolved from Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which for a two-year period (October 2004-October 2006), under the leadership of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (1966-2006), orchestrated a violent insurgency in Iraq against USA’s occupying forces and the Shiite-dominated government of Nouri al-Maliki (1950- ). AQI was born in October 2004 when Zarqawi agreed to align his core group of Jordanian-based fighters with combat experience in Afghanistan, Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, with the broader Al-Qaeda family. During a brief transitional phase from AQI to ISI and five months before his killing by specially assigned American bombardment in June 2006, Zarqawi formed the Mujahidin Shura Council (MSC), with AQI as an affiliate, in an effort to unite all Sunni jihadist outfits in Iraq. Yet Zarqawi also demonstrated an independent streak in his actions, for example his spectacular brutality against Shiite targets, that brought him time and again caution from Al-Qaeda’s central leadership who were worried at being unfavourably implicated with fomenting sectarian violence, uploading grisly slaughtering videos and thereby alienating the local populace. Zarqawi even earned censure from his erstwhile mentor, fellow Jordanian Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi (1959- ) — widely regarded as the foremost ideological doyen of contemporary Salafi-jihadism.
When the Syrian insurgency broke out in 2011, Baghdadi sent reinforcements to help the rebels fighting the troops of Bashar Assad’s government. In April 2013, Baghdadi declared the merger of ISI and Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN: Nusra Front) into ISIS or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). However, in due course Baghdadi failed to get JAN to pledge allegiance to him; JAN commander Abu Muhammad al-Julani vowed loyalty instead to Ayman al-Zawahiri (1951- ) who had replaced the slain Osama bin Laden as Al-Qaeda supremo. After several failed attempts at mediation, Al-Qaeda officially disowned ISIS in February 2014, after which ISIS’s fury was directed as much against the U.S.-led coalition and the renegade Iraqi and Syrian regimes, as against fellow rebels who refuse to swear loyalty to ISIS as standard-bearer of the Prophetic Caliphate as allegedly promised in an array of eschatological traditions. Territorial control became crucial for ISIS’s providential claim to be resurrecting the Caliphate, which was promulgated upon ISIS’s over-running of Mosul in June 2014 and maintaining its stronghold of Raqqa in Syria. As pointed out by Burrell, temporal achievements have always figured conspicuously in Muslim claims to veracity, in spite of all the importance put into otherworldly bounties as reward for upholding the Islamic faith. In contrast to abortive ventures of past jihadists, territoriality allowed ISIS to actually run a state, however draconian the treatment it meted out to its denizens might have been. ISIS’s intolerance and cruelty would in the long run be deleterious to its fortunes in territories under its control, as the reversals it has had to endure since mid-2015 show.
The storming of ISIS into positions of power in swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria took place within an overall post-Arab Spring political milieu that witnessed increasing politicization of Salafi-based groups and individuals throughout the Arab world.
The storming of ISIS into positions of power in swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria took place within an overall post-Arab Spring political milieu that witnessed increasing politicization of Salafi-based groups and individuals throughout the Arab world. Hitherto associated with political quietism that abhorred rebellion against authority, Salafists in countries such as Egypt, Libya and Tunisia gained unprecedented attention in the jostling for influence among the masses following the downfalls of their countries’ dictatorial regimes. For some Western observers, to dismiss the geo-political significance of this newly found Salafi activism would have been unwise. Bearing in mind the turmoil still engulfing the Middle East and North Africa, a scenario in which the Salafists gained access to power either absolutely or in collaboration with other political actors was not far-fetched. ISIS, after all, had capitalized on wide feelings of victimization among Sunnis in Iraq and Syria to boost its credibility and attract support. ISIS’s strategy was premised on a deliberate provocation of warlike conditions, arising from which were rampant chaos, misery, and helplessness that ISIS was ever-prepared to exploit. Sectarian hatred was raised to extreme levels, with displaced Sunni Arabs becoming as much victims of atrocities committed by Iran-backed Shiite militias, as they later turned vengeful aggressors in ISIS-sponsored killing sprees. Ever since Zarqawi’s days, AQI and then ISI’s tactic was to radicalize the Sunnis with Salafi-jihadist aspirations once they had gravitated towards it; in its appropriation of violence, loyalists of Saddam Hussain’s (1937-2006) regime, some trained in the art of brutality, initially played important roles but in due course saw their influence eclipsed by the clout of Salafi-jihadist extremists. It is safe to assume that former Saddam loyalists who went on to become right-hand men of Abu Bakr Baghdadi, for example Abu Muslim al-Turkmani (1959-2015) and Abu Ali al-Anbari aka Abd ar-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli (1957/59-2016) who oversaw ISIS’s Iraqi and Syrian territories respectively on behalf of Baghdadi, had converted to the Salafi-jihadist cause, interest in which they might have harboured since their days in Saddam’s administration and which simply hardened during incarceration in USA-operated detention centres such as Camp Bucca in southern Iraq.
On the one hand, pinpointing Salafism as the single explanatory cause for ISIS’s extraordinary gravitation towards violent extremism can be unduly reductionist. ISIS deliberately employs gratuitous violence and sensationalizes it to instill fear, anger, and hopelessness among populations under its control worldwide. Emotional trauma is intentionally inflicted on the large viewing public to convey impressions of ISIS’s invincibility and supposed destiny as the group that would usher in Muslims’ ultimate victory in the Al-Malhamah al-Kubra — the Great War between good and evil (i.e. the Battle of Armageddon in Islamic eschatology). A significant number of the ideas propagated by ISIS are steeped in Islam’s apocalyptic traditions, however skewed their interpretations might be. ISIS’s official online journal, Dabiq, for instance, is named after a northern Syrian town which features in eschatological traditions as one of the battlefield sites. ISIS’s black flag is supposed to represent the banner that is to be waved by Islam’s promised redeemer near the end of time, Imam al-Mahdi, who will lead Muslims into a series of doomsday battles against unbelievers. Without discounting other motivating factors, appeal to the end of times narrative plays no less an important role in attracting large numbers of Muslim youths from as far as Europe, Southeast Asia, and Australia, to embark on a lifetime journey of hijrah (emigration) to ISIS-administered regions in the Middle East. Nevertheless, with new instructions in 2016 from the ISIS leadership to prospective jihadists that they need not emigrate should prohibitive circumstances arise, there has been rising concern that the gory violence ISIS is infamous for will be exported to the fighters’ home countries through not only the ‘blowback effect’ of returning fighters but also lone wolves whose only source of radicalization might be social media. For many of these latter type of jihadists, recruitment into militant Islamism is attributable less to religion than to a host of social, cultural, and psychological factors. The fact that young recruits join ISIS due to a melange of factors does not diminish the powerful sense of the ‘in-group versus out-group’ type of mentality mentioned by Lewis, that can so easily boil down to fanaticism and eventually to violence.
Violence as a corollary of the takfiri culture has been a bane in the history of Salafism as a whole and its Wahhabi version in particular.
On the other hand, violence as a corollary of the takfiri culture has been a bane in the history of Salafism as a whole and its Wahhabi version in particular. What has effectively taken place in the umma over the past forty years or so is the Wahhabi co-optation of Salafism, marshalled by Saudi-connected scholars such as Nasiruddin al-Albani (1914-99), Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz (1910-99), Muhammad ibn Salih al-Uthaymeen (1925-2001), Saleh al-Fawzan (1933- ), Safar al-Hawali (1950- ), and Salman al-‘Awda (1956- ). The earlier salafiyyah trend associated with the Al-Manar modernist school of Jamaluddin Al-Afghani (1838-1897), Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905), and Rasyid Rida (1865-1935) has largely been shunned by contemporary Salafis for being too rationalist in orientation. Saudi Arabia’s petrodollar-powered dissemination of Wahhabi thought in the guise of Salafism has proceeded with evangelical fervour since the 1970s.
Salafization became the dominant trend of worldwide Islamist movements such that the term ‘Salafi’ as now employed refers almost exclusively to the Wahhabi-Salafi trend. Under the guise of ummatic unity, Saudi institutions such as the Rabitah al-‘Alam Islami (Muslim World League, or MWL), the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), and the Islamic University of Madinah have served as conduits to export Wahhabi dogma worldwide. In the process, Wahhabi-Salafi influence permeated Muslim state institutions, ruling parties, charity associations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Islamist movements, and educational networks. According to a European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs-commissioned study of five countries viz. Egypt, Tunisia, Bosnia, Pakistan, and Indonesia, Wahhabi-Salafi financial aid, whether via institutional or private networks, “systematically pursue of goal of political influence.”
Wishing to assert leadership over the Muslim world in the face of challenges from Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970) in Egypt and later post-revolutionary Iran, against whom Saudi Arabia bears a traditional Wahhabi antipathy of Shiism as well, Saudi Arabia accepted many MB exiles who had internalized Sayyid Qutb’s Manichean ideas. This merger produced the Sahwa (Awakening) movement — the Saudi-style Salafi reformist strand which broke with the Salafi quietist-purist school over the latter’s fatwa (legal ruling) sanctioning the presence of American troops on Saudi land during the 1990-91 Gulf War. MB-style activism formed the bridge between Salafi quietism and political Islam, producing haraki (movement-based) Salafism which underwent radicalization in the form of political takfirism and its package of “caliphate, jihad and rebellion.” The violence-legitimating strand of Salafi-jihadism which spawned militant Islamist groups like Al-Qaeda, Taliban, and ISIS are but the ‘extreme manifestations’ of theological puritanism rooted in Wahhabi-Salafism, whose impact on “Islamic intellectual heritage, … humanistic and universalistic orientations within Islam, has been nothing short of devastating.” Salafi quietists loyal to Nasiruddin al-Albani’s teachings that stress tazkiyyah (purification) and tarbiyyah (education) while purportedly rejecting takfir have disavowed ISIS, but the exclusivist tendencies ingrained in Wahhabi-Salafism still show in their antipathy of Shiites and Sufis — adherents of the mystical strand of Islam. Read moreover, reliance on the same references, scholars, and reasoning blurs differences between Salafi-quietism and Salafi-jihadism. It is the very exclusivist character of Wahhabi-Salafist theology itself that spawns extremism and breeds sectarianism, wherein lies a slippery slope to violence.
Historically, Wahhabi expansionism in Arabia saw violence being wantonly perpetrated against Muslims accused of committing shirk and bid’ah, for which staunch Wahhabi-Salafists make no apologies. Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s own writings, testimonies from his contemporaries among both friends and foes, confirm that he had encouraged militant jihad against Muslims deemed to have crossed the line of apostasy by way of polytheistic behavior. Some leading scholars of the Saudi religious establishment such as Aadel al-Kalbani, former imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, and Hatim al-‘Awni of Umm al-Qura University have admitted the troubling fact that ISIS draws upon a strict reading of Wahhabi-Salafi texts to justify violence perpetrated in the name of Islam. Since Saudi Arabia and ISIS share the same Wahhabi-Salafi roots, it is hardly surprising that Saudis made up fifteen of the nineteen 9-11 hijackers, form the second largest contingent of foreign ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria after Tunisians, and that official Saudi textbooks were adopted by ISIS for its schools until it came up with its own syllabi.
In ISIS’s scheme, such horrid feats as bloody military conquest, enslavement of the vanquished, legalized rape of non-conformist women, and decimation of heretics such as the Yazidis and recalcitrant Shiite and Sunni populations alike, are no longer tolerated as collateral damage but rather rejoiced over as signs of triumph. They find religious justifications for their savagery in disputed Prophetic traditions and storytelling of gruesome battlefield encounters between companions of the Prophet and enemies of Islam, especially renegade Muslims such as during the Apostasy Wars launched by Caliph Abu Bakr (573-634) against rebellious tribes. For example, quoting Ibn Taimiyyah and claiming justification from the precedence established by Caliph Abu Bakr, which however El Fadl contends to be apocryphal, ISIS practices the burning alive of prisoners of war, beginning with that of the Jordanian Pilot Muath al-Kassasbeh in January 2015. The cruel method of execution has not stopped despite setbacks that ISIS has had to endure on battlefronts lately. Yet, it was reported that Qatar, another Wahhabi state though not as conservative as Saudi Arabia, had issued an official fatwa in 2006 permitting the burning alive of apostates, only to take it down from its Islam Web website once news of Muath al-Kassasbeh’s murder became viral online. What is striking also is the fact that the Qatar fatwa and ISIS conveniently chose to dismiss the Prophet’s caution, “No one punishes with fire except the Lord of fire,” as a mere sign of humility rather than express prohibition. Large-scale slavery and multiple rapes of unbelieving female ‘slaves’ — the other crimes against humanity that ISIS are notorious for — also draw sanction from past edicts issued by the Wahhabi-Salafi religious establishment not necessarily drawn to ISIS-type violence. An example is Saleh al-Fawzan’s infamous advocacy of slavery as “part of Islam” and “part of jihad,” pronouncing those Muslims who outlaw slavery as “ignorant” and “infidel.” Fawzan was a principal author of Saudi Arabia’s educational curriculum which ISIS later adopted, albeit temporarily.
In its appropriation of violence as a political weapon, ISIS has gone further than Al-Qaeda in its application of takfirism within takfirism, whereby even mainstream Wahhabi-Salafists such as the ones aligned to the Saudi state are selectively singled out as apostates. To ISIS, violence is to be managed to derive maximum political capital, which includes striking fear in the hearts of its opponents. Two authors in particular had endeavored to offer justifications for ISIS’s uncompromising brutality against especially renegade Muslims, viz. Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir and Abu Bakr Naji, who wrote treatises entitled Questions About the Jurisprudence of Jihad aka The Jurisprudence of Blood and The Management of Savagery, respectively. In contrast with Al-Qaeda, which had concentrated on war against the ‘far enemy,’ ISIS shifted focus of its belligerence on the ‘near enemy,’ meaning apostate Muslim regimes, Shiites, deviant sects such as the Sufis and Yazidis, rival jihadists, and fellow Muslims complicit with the aforementioned groups. This is based on the doctrine, inherited from Al-Qaeda’s Abdullah Azzam and Egyptian Al-Jihad radical theoretician Muhammad Abd al-Salam Faraj (1954-1982), that Islam’s worst enemies are those within the fold. ISIS’s visceral abomination of the Shiites runs directly to Ibn Taimiyyah’s warning: “The origin of all sedition and calamity is Shia and their allies, and many of the swords unleashed against Islam come from them.”
Coercion and fear are essential to ensure obedience of populations under ISIS’s control, as bluntly conveyed to researcher Hassan Hassan in his interview with an ISIS official: “If you think people will accept the Islamic project [voluntarily], you’re wrong. They have to be forced at first. The other groups think they can convince people and win them over but they’re wrong.” But within one year of the proclamation of its caliphate in Mosul in June 2014, ISIS’s blood-thirsty actions were even too much for Al-Qaeda to bear, so much so that its spokesmen, such as American convert Adam Gadahn (1978-2015), began denouncing openly the nature and extent of ISIS’s draconian punishments. Although sharing the same Salafi-jihadi roots with Al-Qaeda, ISIS clearly opted for interpretations that maximize pain and suffering of its victims. As discussed, for instance, by Wagemakers, regarding the two Qur’anic verses which appear to legalize beheading, ISIS’s interpretation of ‘smiting enemies’ necks’ condones slaughtering, whereas Al-Qaeda understands it in the more ‘merciful’ manner of separating the head from the body quickly with a single blow, avoiding torture. The rationale for the more gory choice lay in its allegedly greater effectiveness as a means to sow fear in the hearts of enemies, as supposedly enjoined by the verses in concern. Other atrocious methods of execution practised by ISIS have been drowning, detonating explosives tied around the neck, close range shooting, crucifixion, stabbing right into the middle of the heart, and throwing down from high buildings for those found guilty of homosexuality.
By Way of Conclusion
An entire generation of the umma has grown up in a socio-political environment in which violence is seen as a legitimate way to redress grievances of victimized populations or to exact revenge against aggressors, whether states or non-state entities. The bitter fact to swallow is that Muslim regimes and governments themselves bear a huge responsibility for the rise in militancy by appropriating Islamist symbols and programs for selfish political purposes, thus opening up spaces and opportunities for the Salafization of communities, often accompanied by material benefits of being part of the global Wahhabi-Salafi nexus. In the least developed Muslim countries, factors such as economic deprivation, family breakdowns, cultural vacuousness, and political despotism fuse to generate conditions ripe for the Wahhabi-Salafi-driven radicalization. In combating the menace of Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and similar manifestations of militant Islamism, uprooting the bases of Wahhabi-Salafi thought institutionally ingrained in Muslim societies is indispensable.
 Zachary Abuza, “Al Qaeda in Southeast Asia: Exploring the Linkages” in Kumar Ramakrishna and See Seng Tan, Eds., After Bali: The Threat of Terrorism in Southeast Asia (Singapore: Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies and World Scientific, 2003) 153.
 Between 1982 and 1992, some 35,000 fighters from 43 different countries were estimated to have volunteered their services in support of the Afghan jihad, under the auspices of Maktab al-Khidmat (MAK: Services Centre) co-founded in 1984 by Osama Bin Laden (1957-2011) and the Palestinian-Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood operative Abdullah Azzam (1941-1989). See). Afzal Khan, “The War on Terror and the Politics of Violence in Pakistan,” The Jamestown Foundation, February 7, 2004, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Rohan Gunaratna, “Terrorist Trends and Patterns in the Asia-Pacific Region,” in Andrew Tan and Kumar Ramakrishna, Eds., The New Terrorism: Anatomy, Trends and Counter-Strategies (Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 2002) 134; Michel Chossudovsky, “Al Qaeda and the “‘War on Terrorism,”’ Global Research, January 20, 2008, accessed January 25, 2017, ; Directorate-General for External Policies Policy Department, Salafist/Wahhabite Financial Support to Educational, Social and Religious Institutions (Brussels: European Union, 2013) 11-12.
 Read more on Salafi-jihadism, Salafism and related terms will be elaborated below. For a useful introduction to similar concepts, see Rashid Dar and Shadi Hamid, “Islamism, Salafism, and jihadism: A Primer,” Brookings Institution, July 15, 2016, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 See for example, the fatwa (legal ruling) urging jihad against Americans originally released by the World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders in Al-Quds al-‘Arabi (London) on February 23, 1998, and signed by Osama Bin Ladin; Egyptian Islamic Jihad leader Ayman al-Zawahiri; Islamic Group leader Abu- Yasir Rifa'i Ahmad Taha;, secretary of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Pakistan Sheikh Mir Hamzah; and leader of the Bangladeshi Jihad Movement Fazlul Rahman, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Bruce Hoffman, “The Changing Face of Al Qaeda and the Global War on Terrorism,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 27, 6 (2004): 553-554.
 ElSayed M.A. Amin, Reclaiming Jihad: A Qur’anic Critique of Terrorism (Leicester: The Islamic Foundation, 2014) 118-19.
 Thomas Hegghammer, “Jihadi-Salafis or Revolutionaries? On Religion and Politics in the Study of Militant Islamism,” in Roel Meijer, Ed., Global Salafism: Islam’s New Religious Movement (London: Hurst, 2009) 251-257; Zulkarnain Haron and Nordin Hussin, “A Study of the Salafi Jihadist Doctrine and the Interpretation of Jihad by Al Jama’ah Al Islamiyah,” KEMANUSIAAN: Asian Journal of Humanities 20, 2 (2013): 22-25.
 This event is hereafter referred to as “9-11.”
 Quintan Wiktorowicz and John Kaltner, “Killing In The Name Of Islam: Al-Qaeda’s Justification For September 11,” Middle East Policy 10, 2 (2003): 76-92; Manuel R. Torres, Javier Jordan and Nicola Horsburgh, “Analysis and Evolution of the Global Jihadist Movement Propaganda,” Terrorism and Political Violence 18, 3 (2006): 407-408, 413-414.
 Thomas Hegghammer, “Global Jihadism After the Iraq War,” Middle East Journal 60, 1 (2006): 14-15.
 Hegghammer, “Global Jihadism After the Iraq War,” 11.
 Facebook, for instance, made its appearance in 2004.
 Stephan Rosiny, “The Rise and Demise of the IS Caliphate,” Middle East Policy 22, 2 (2015): 95.
 S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana, “Religion, Violence and the Islamic Tradition of Nonviolence,” Turkish Yearbook of International Relations, vol. 34 (2003): 24.
 Islamism, the institutional expression of which is commonly referred to as ‘political Islam,’ refers to an ideology which sees the establishment of a juridical Islamic state as necessary for the realization of the ideals of Islam as a complete way of life (din al-hayah) within institutional structures governed by an ummatically-mandated Caliph. Upholding the sharia (Islamic law), failure of which is deemed as compromising one’s faith in the totality of Islam, ipso facto becomes the ultimate aim of such an Islamic state. The indispensability of the ‘Islamic state’ imperative is what distinguishes Islamism from Islam. See for example Rashad Ali and Hannah Stuart, A Guide to Refuting Jihadism: Critiquing radical Islamist claims to theological authenticity (London: Henry Jackson Society, 2014) 15. In terms of adjectival use, ‘Islamist’ pertains to believers and practitioners of Islamism, whereas ‘Islamic’ is employed with reference to Islam as a religious faith per se.
 Bernard Lewis, “The Roots of Muslim Rage,” The Atlantic Monthly 266, 3 (1990): 47-60, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Samuel P. Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs 72, 3 (1993): 22-49, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Colonel Nicolaas J.E. van der Zee, The Roots of Muslim Rage Revisited, Master (Strategic Studies) Strategy Research Project (Carlisle, PA: United States Army War College, 2013), accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Quintan Wiktorowicz, “A Genealogy of Radical Islam,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 28, 2 (2005): 84-85; Quintan Wiktorowicz, “Anatomy of the Salafi Movement,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 29, 3 (2006): 225; Marc Lynch, “Islam Divided Between Salafi-jihad and the Ikhwan,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 3, 6 (2010): 467-487.
 Cole Bunzel, From Paper State to Caliphate: The Ideology of the Islamic State, The Brookings Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World Analysis Paper No. 19 (Washington D.C.: Brookings, March 2015) 8; Jacob Olidort, The Politics of “Quietist” Salafism, The Brookings Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World Analysis Paper No. 18 (Washington D.C.: Brookings, February 2015) 7; Hassan Hassan, The Sectarianism of the Islamic State: Ideological Roots and Political Context (Washington D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, June 2016) 4-5.
 John C. Zimmerman, “Sayyid Qutb’s Influence on the 11 September Attacks,” Terrorism and Political Violence 16, 2 (2004): 222-252; Wiktorowicz, “A Genealogy of Radical Islam,” 77-83.
 A worldview which advocates total separation between all spheres of Muslim and non-Muslim lives, effectively promoting a dichotomous environment in which forces of Islam and infidelity are seen to be irreconcilably doomed to perpetual conflict. Needless to say, in such a scenario, violence and civilian loss of lives easily become justifiable as collateral damage towards fulfilling the larger cause of defeating forces of taghut (false gods). See Khaled Abou El Fadl, The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam From The Extremists (New York: HarperOne, 2005) 49-50, 206.
 Alastair Crooke, “You Can’t Understand ISIS If You Don’t Know The History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia,” New Perspectives Quarterly 32, 1 (2015): 56-70, accessed January 25, 2017, ; Cole Bunzel, The Kingdom and the Caliphate (Washington D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, February 2016) 3-7; Ben Hubbard, “ISIS Turns Saudis Against the Kingdom, and Families Against Their Own,” New York Times, March 31, 2016, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 William McCants, “The Believer: How An Introvert With A Passion For Religion And Soccer Became Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Leader of the Islamic State, Brookings Institution, September 1, 2015, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Andrea Plebani, “The Unfolding Legacy of Al-Qa’ida in Iraq: From Al-Zarqawi to the New Islamic Caliphate,” in Andrea Plebani, Ed., New (And Old) Patterns of Jihadism: Al-Qa’ida, the Islamic State and Beyond (Milan: ISPI, 2014) 5-6; Patrick B. Johnston, Jacob N. Shapiro, Howard J. Shatz, Benjamin Bahney, Danielle F. Jung, Patrcik K. Ryan and Jonathan Wallace, Foundations of the Islamic State: Management, Money, and Terror in Iraq, 2005-2010 (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2016) 14.
 Joby Warrick, “Maniac who created ISIS: His medieval barbarity was too much even for Al Qaeda. Now a chilling new book charts the bloody rise and fall of the ‘Slaughter Sheik,’” The Mail Online, September 26, 2015, accessed January 25, 2017, ; Daniel L. Byman and Jennifer R. Williams, “ISIS vs. Al Qaeda: Jihadism’s global civil war,” Brookings Institution, February 24, 2015, accessed January 25, 2017, ; Johnston et.al., Foundations of the Islamic State, 31.
 Bunzel, From Paper State to Caliphate, 9, 13, 27-30; Graeme Wood, “What ISIS Really Wants,” The Atlantic, March 2015, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Plebani, “The Unfolding Legacy of Al-Qa’ida in Iraq,” 10-13; Byman and Williams, “ISIS vs. Al Qaeda”; Hassan, The Sectarianism of the Islamic State, 10.
 Wood, “What ISIS Really Wants.”
 R.M. Burrell, “Introduction: Islamic Fundamentalism in the Middle East - a Survey of its Origins and Diversity,” in R.M. Burrell, Ed., Islamic Fundamentalism, (London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1989) 12.
 At the time of writing, seventy percent of eastern Mosul is said to have been successfully liberated from ISIS by a 100,000-strong coalition of Iraqi government troops, members of the autonomous Kurdish security forces and Shi'ite militiamen. See Rosiny, “The Rise and Demise of the IS Caliphate,” 103-104, and Stephen Kalin and Isabel Coles, “Iraqi general says 70 percent of east Mosul retaken from Islamic State,” Reuters, January 5, 2017, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Khalil Al-Anani and Maszlee Malik, “Pious Way to Politics: The Rise of Political Salafism in Post-Mubarak Egypt,” Digest of Middle East Studies 22, 1 (2013): 57-73; Hassan, The Sectarianism of the Islamic State, 6.
 Robin Wright, “Don’t Fear All Islamists, Fear Salafis,” New York Times, August 19, 2012, accessed January 25, 2017, ; Christian Caryl, “The Salafi Moment,” Foreign Policy, September 12, 2012, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 International Crisis Group, Exploiting Disorder: al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, Crisis Group Special Report, March 14, 2016 (Brussels: ICG, 2016) 9-11.
 Johnston et.al., Foundations of the Islamic State, pp. 14, 30.
 Charles Lister, “Islamic State Senior Leadership: Who’s Who,” Brookings Institution, October 20, 2014, accessed January 25, 2017, ; Ruth Sherlock, “Inside the leadership of Islamic State: how the new ‘caliphate’ is run,” The Telegraph, July 9, 2014, accessed January 25, 2017, ; and Andrew Thompson and Jeremi Suri, “How America Helped ISIS,” New York Times, October 1, 2014, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Muhammad Haniff Hassan, “Selective Nature of Islamic State’s Armageddon Narrative,” Eurasia Review, February 9, 2015, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 William McCants, “How ISIS Got Its Flag,” The Atlantic, September 22, 2015, accessed January 25, 2017, ; and William McCants, “Apocalypse Delayed,” Jihadica, October 16, 2016, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Johnston et.al., Foundations of the Islamic State, xxii; Peter Chalk, Black flag rising: ISIL in Southeast Asia and Australia (Barton: ASPI, 2015); Badrus Sholeh, “Daesh in Europe and Southeast Asia: An Indonesian Perspective,” in Beatrice Gorawantschy, Rohan Gunaratna, Megha Sarmah and Patrick Rueppel, Eds., Countering Daesh Extremism: European and Asian Responses (Singapore: Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung and RSIS, 2016) 101-02.
 MEMRI, “Issue 11 of ISIS's English Language Magazine ‘Dabiq’ A General Review,” Middle East Media Research Institute Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor, September 9, 2015, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Lorenzo Vidino, “European Jihadists in Syria: Profiles, Travel Patterns And Governmental Responses,” in Andrea Plebani, Ed., New (And Old) Patterns of Jihadism: Al-Qa’ida, the Islamic State and Beyond (Milan: ISPI, 2014) 27-43.
 Joshua A. Krisch, “The Psychology Of A Terrorist: How ISIS Wins Hearts And Minds,” Vocativ, November 16, 2015, accessed January 25, 2017, ; and Lizzie Dearden, “Isis: Islam is ‘not strongest factor’ behind foreign fighters joining extremist groups in Syria and Iraq – report,” Independent, November 17, 2016, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Lewis, “The Roots of Muslim Rage,” 49.
 John Graham, “Who Joins ISIS and Why?” Huffington Post, December 29, 2015, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 On the association between takfir ideology and violence, see the video “Takfiri Ideology Warning Very graphic content,” May 31, 2016, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Olidort, The Politics of “Quietist” Salafism, 12-13; Jonathan A.C. Brown, “Is Islam Easy to Understand or Not? Salafis, the Democratization of Interpretation and the Need for the Ulema,” Journal of Islamic Studies 26, 2 (2014): 139-142.
 Wiktorowicz, “Anatomy of the Salafi Movement,” 212.
 El Fadl, The Great Theft, 86-87.
 Hamid Algar, Wahhabism: A Critical Essay (New York: Islamic Publications International, 2002) 47-53; James M. Dorsey, “Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export Of Wahhabism – OpEd,” Eurasia Review, March 7, 2016, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Directorate-General for External Policies Policy Department, Salafist/Wahhabite Financial Support to Educational, Social and Religious Institutions, 1.
 Wiktorowicz, “Anatomy of the Salafi Movement,” 222.
 Hassan, The Sectarianism of the Islamic State, 6-7.
 El Fadl, The Great Theft, 100-101.
 Olidort, The Politics of “Quietist” Salafism.
 Joas Wagemakers, “Anti-Shi’ism without the Shi’a: Salafi Sectarianism in Jordan,” Maydan, October 17, 2016, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Wiktorowicz, “Anatomy of the Salafi Movement,” 213; Ibraheem Juburi, “The Quietist fight against jihadism,” The Arab Weekly, November 13, 2016.
 Algar, Wahhabism, 20-28, 31-35, 71-76; Bunzel, The Kingdom and the Caliphate, 5-7.
 MEMRI, “Senior Saudi Salafi Cleric: ‘ISIS Is A True Product Of Salafism,’” Middle East Media Research Institute, November 3, 2014, accessed January 25, 2017, ; and Hanan Al-Hashemi, “Wahhabism at the heart of the controversy,” Al-Akhbar, November 28, 2014, accessed January 25, 2017, . See also recordings of Aadel al-Kalbani’s and Hatim al-‘Awni’s talkshows at “Former Imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Adel Kalbani: Daesh ISIS have the same beliefs as we do,” January 27, 2016, accessed January 25, 2017, , and “Pensyarah-pensyarah di Universiti-universiti Wahhabi mengakui hubung kait DAESH dengan Wahhabi” [Lecturers at Wahhabi universities admit the connection between Daesh and Wahhabi], September 20, 2016, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Ashley Kirk, “Iraq and Syria: How many foreign fighters are fighting for Isil?” The Telegraph, March 24, 2016, accessed January 25, 2017, ; and Scott Shane, “Saudis and Extremism: ‘Both the Arsonists and Firefighters,’” New York Times, August 25, 2016, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Hassan, The Sectarianism of the Islamic State, 17-19.
 El Fadl, The Great Theft, 54.
 Walid Shoebat, “Watch The Most Horrific Video By ISIS Burning POW Jordanian Pilot,” Shoebat.com, February 3, 2015, accessed January 25, 2017, ; and Sidq Miqal, “,” Shiapac, February 7, 2015, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 See for example, “,” Bare Naked Islam, August 31, 2015, accessed January 25, 2017, ; and “WATCH: ISIS Releases Video of Burning 2 Caged Turkish Soldiers to Death in English,” Heavy, January 1, 2017, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Economist, “The other Wahhabi state,” The Economist, June 2, 2016, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Raymond Ibrahim, “Qatar Published Fatwa In 2006 Permitting Burning People - Removes It After ISIS Burns Pilot,” Raymond Ibrahim, February 7, 2015, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, Rule of Terror: Living under ISIS in Syria (New York: United Nations, 2014) 8-10; and Rukmini Callimachi, “ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape,” New York Times, August 13, 2015, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Saudi Information Agency, “Author of Saudi Curriculums Advocates Slavery,” Islamopedia Online, March 24, 2010, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Hassan, The Sectarianism of the Islamic State, 10, 14.
 Al-Muhajir’s lectures which form the basis of the book are available online, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 The version translated by Brookings scholar William McCants is available online, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Hassan, The Sectarianism of the Islamic State, 17; and Robert Manne, “The mind of Islamic State: more coherent and consistent than Nazism,” The Guardian, November 3, 2016, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Andrew McGregor, “Jihad and the Rifle Alone”: ‘Abdullah ‘Azzam and the Islamist Revolution,” The Journal of Conflict Studies 23, 2 (2003): 96-98; Daniel L. Byman and Jennifer R. Williams, “ISIS vs. Al Qaeda: Jihadism’s global civil war,” Brookings Institution, February 24, 2015, accessed January 25, 2017, ; Hassan, The Sectarianism of the Islamic State, 9.
 Quoted in Hassan, The Sectarianism of the Islamic State, 15.
 Ibid., 7.
 Lee Ferran, “American Al Qaeda to ISIS: No Paradise for You,” ABC News, June 28, 2015, accessed January 25, 2017, .
 Joas Wagemakers, “Salafi Source Readings Between Al-Qaeda And IS,” Oasis, Year 12, 23 (2016): 55-62.
 Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an: English translation of the meanings and Commentary (Madinah: King Fahd Holy Quran Printing Complex, n.d.) 472, 1560.
 The verses are from the chapter of Al-Anfal (8: 12): “Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the message): ‘I am with you: give firmness to the believers, I will instil terror into the hearts of the unbelievers, smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them,’” and the chapter of Muhammad (47: 4): “Therefore, when ye meet the unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks; at length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind (the captives) firmly; therefore (is the time for) either generosity or ransom, until the war lays down its burdens. Thus (are ye commanded): but if it had been Allah’s will, He could certainly have exacted retribution from them (Himself), but (He lets you fight) in order to test you, some with others. But those who are slain in the way of Allah, He will never let their deeds be lost.”
 Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, “Between the Jurisprudence of Blood and the Management of Savagery: Islamic State Advances Terror Methods,” Atlantic Council, June 2, 2016, accessed January 25, 2017, .